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So occasionally I write...

Title: Conversation on a Roof
Fandom: D&D, this is my current rogue character
Rating: PG I guess
Summary: Leila unexpectedly encounters an old friend while casing an empty house. Cue reminiscing. Word count: 1,852
Author's Note: As stated, Leila is my character in an ancient Egyptian style D&D game. Details of the world belong to the DM, Leila and Malik belong to me, this incarnation of Hathor belongs to Wizards, and yes, I stole Malik's name from a certain video game franchise with which I am obsessed, because I was too lazy to research one. I haven't written anything in years, and I don't consider myself a writer. Leila was just begging me to give her a little time, so I did. :)

The sunset was spectacular that night, or so Leila kept hearing from passersby on the street below her. She wouldn’t know- from her hidden spot on the roof of a partially constructed house, all she could see clearly was her mark’s front door. The waning sun was at her back and out of her eyes, which was the important thing. There would always be another sunset.

She sighed and shifted her weight a little to ease the pins and needles that wanted to take over her legs. This was her least favorite part of the job, the waiting. The research. She couldn’t deny that there was pleasure in the art of stealth, but she still longed for the day when she would finally finish her training and be allowed to choose her own methods.

Leila smiled at the memory of her favorite heist so far, when she had distracted a fool of a man with an amusing story about nothing in particular and embraced him warmly because he reminded her of her nonexistent brother. She had relieved him of his belt pouch with that embrace, and been ecstatic to find later that it contained not only a fair amount of money, but a lovely ring as well. The ring had no doubt been intended for the wife he kept protesting would not like to see him in the company of another woman, especially one so charming, and Leila still hadn’t quite forgiven her mentor for forcing her to sell the piece. She’d wanted it as a souvenir.

Time crept by, and the brilliant desert sunset gradually gave way to a night full of stars. There had been no movement on the street for more than an hour, and no one had entered or exited the door that was the object of her attention. No light shone from any of the windows, and no smoke was in evidence. Apparently the information she’d gotten from her contacts was correct- the merchant owner of the house had left on business and taken his household staff with him. The time was perfect to summon the partner she’d been assigned this task with and together break in to see what riches they might acquire.

Before she could turn to begin her descent to the street, Leila paused. There was no noise other than that of the various night insects, but something was different. Her hand went immediately to her dagger, and she froze as she had been taught, analyzing the situation and readying herself to strike. Still she heard nothing. She saw nothing. What had disturbed her? A slight breeze stirred, and she realized what had been tickling her subconscious. The very lightest of scents carried through the air, a familiar one of incense and sweat.

Leila smiled onto the empty street for the second time that night. “Hello, Malik,” she said.

“Little bird,” the man behind her said softly, using the nickname he’d given her when they were both children, “you’re getting better at this”.

“I should be!” she replied. “I’m almost a full member of the Guild now, as you should know if you hadn’t left. Where have you been, anyway?”

“I heard about your mother,” Malik replied, touching her shoulder.

Leila turned to look her only true friend in the face and found she could only see the reflection of the night sky’s stars in his dark eyes, as the hood he wore was an effective camouflage in the gloom. “Did you hear that she had me banned from the Temple almost a year ago, as well? After you got out, I couldn’t pretend I wanted to be a priestess anymore. I kept trying for a few years, but nobody understood me there. With all their talk of destiny and dreams, nobody seemed to care that I dreamed of different things.”

“I heard that, too.”

“But that wasn’t enough for you to come? I thought we were friends, Malik. You’re the only person who ever saw me as anything but another servant for Hathor. The day you were brought to the temple was the first day I truly felt alive. Remember the trouble we used to get into together? Imagine how I felt, cast from the only home I’d ever known, completely alone. I joined the thieves because I thought you’d be there. Why didn’t you tell me you’d gone?”
“My path is different now, Leila. I’ve taken an oath of secrecy, and I’ve been on assignment. It isn’t something I planned, and you know I would never choose to hurt you. I couldn’t get here any faster without compromising my work.”

He paused, and Leila could sense his grin even though his face was obscured, “Little bird, I’ve missed your chirping, even when you’re angry and the chirps turn to squawks. Will you forgive me?”

Leila folded her arms and glared at her friend. She knew she couldn’t really stay angry at him, not when she was so glad to see him again after months of wondering whether or not he even lived. “If you were really my brother I’d disown you, you realize.”

Malik laughed and said, “Fortunately for both of us I’m not, then. I’m not that easy to get rid of, little nearly-sister. Does all of this mean you haven’t been back to the Temple?”

“I have not. There’s nothing for me there. I can only hope that the children my mother finds in the afterlife will be less of a disappointment to her than she told me I had been.”

Malik said nothing, and the pair stood quietly together in comfortable silence, looking up at the stars as they had done as children. They were both remembering the past, memories of an awkward, lonely girl dressed in white ceremonial robes, an orphaned boy from a distant land brought to the temple because his precocious artistic skill was thought to be a gift from the horned goddess of art and love.

They had been instant friends, recognizing in each other a kindred spirit and mutual affinity for chaos. Each had taught the other to speak their mother tongue, as Malik had been brought to Arachnea knowing only his native Arabic. They played endless pranks on the painters, sculptors, and musicians that made up the populace of the temple, including the memorable night they stayed awake all night to re-sculpt a clay statue of Hathor into something more fitting to the décor of a brothel than a temple.

Malik was the shoulder Leila cried on when her increasing disaffection with the gods in general and Hathor in particular began to take its toll on her interactions with her priestess mother and made her training as a priestess unbearable.

Leila was a sympathetic ear for Malik when he grew bored with endless art instruction and yearned for something more exciting to turn his talented hands to.

When Malik left the temple to join the local thieves’ guild, Leila was privately devastated, but couldn’t blame him. She’d even tried to join it herself, but at thirteen the guild wasn’t interested in the trouble of taking her on. For four long years she waited, chafing under the rule of her mother and the temple, marking time between Malik’s infrequent visits. An incident she still didn’t care to think of led to her mother expelling her from the temple, but she was finally of an age the guild deemed acceptable. That bittersweet day was marred when she learned that Malik had left the guild several weeks earlier.

As a cloud passed overhead, obscuring the stars, Leila peeked over at the man she considered her brother. He was looking at her.

“I should have told you when I left,” he said.

Leila made an exasperated noise. “I could have told you that. Are you staying? Can I come with you if you’re not?”

“No,” he said, looking at the ground, “To both questions. As I said before, we have different paths. I spoke to Rabiah earlier this evening. He says you’re progressing well. I can’t believe he’s still teaching thievery, I think that man was old when the world was young.”

“You’re trying to distract me, Malik.”

“Did it not work?” he looked back up at her, regret in his voice, “I’m sorry it has to be this way. And I’m sorry because I’m out of time. I have to leave tonight, if I start before dawn I won’t be missed. You have a good place here, Leila. These are good people teaching you valuable skills. It wasn’t for me, that’s all. I’ll see you again when my business brings me here, I promise. “

Without another word, he began to walk away. Leila knew this was her last chance to unburden herself of the secret she’d been keeping, the reason her mother had given her up once and for all.

“Malik, wait!” she caught his arm just as he was about to swing himself over the edge of the roof. He looked at her, his eyes once again catching the starlight. Now it was Leila’s turn to look away.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” she faltered, “Well, less that I want to tell you, and more that you’re the only one I can tell. Please don’t think less of me.”

“What is it, little bird? My time is short.”

At the sound of her friend’s pet name for her, that relic of a simpler time, Leila bit her lip. “Did you ever wonder what I did to incur my mother’s wrath?”

He waited patiently for her to continue. He knew she would in time, and after a pause to gather her thoughts, she did.

“There was a man at the temple. A stranger. I didn’t like him, and I kept my distance. It turns out my mother had been trying to marry me off to him, hoping that turning me into a wife and mother would open me up to the love of the goddess. He- he came into my room one night. I knew what he wanted, and I wasn’t going to give it to him. We struggled, I had my knife- you remember, the jeweled one I used to use for cutting flowers- I…Malik, I killed him. I stabbed him in the throat.”

“Your mother cast you out for defending yourself?” he asked, surprised.

“No. She cast me out because I watched the man die and I enjoyed it,” Leila said. She wished she could see her friend’s face. She wanted to know if he thought she was a monster, as her mother did.

“Little bird,” he said, touching her hair briefly before he turned to start climbing down from the roof, “maybe you can fly with me someday, after all.”

With that, he was gone, melted into the night shadows. Leila looked in the direction he had disappeared for a moment, then looked back at the stars. There was still plenty of time before morning. It wasn’t too late to find her partner and carry off the job she’d been sent here to do. Houses don’t rob themselves, after all.


I'll be back to my regularly scheduled crafting as soon as I take some pictures.